For someone who claims that he doesn't get any respect, Rodney Dangerfield (born: Jacob Cohen) is one of the most respected entertainers. His résumé as an actor includes appearances in comedy flicks, including Caddyshack in 1980, Easy Money, which he co-wrote, in 1983, Back To School in 1986, and Ladybugs in 1992, and dramatic films, including Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers in 1994. He provided the voice of Mr. Burns' son on the Simpsons and provided the voice, wrote the screenplay, composed the songs, and served as executive producer of the animated film Rover Dangerfield. Additional films in which he appeared include The Projectionist in 1970 and Benny And Barney: Las Vegas Undercover in 1976. He appeared regularly on the television variety program, the Dean Martin Show, from 1972 to 1973. The recipient of a Lifetime Achievement award at the 1994 American Comedy Award ceremonies, Dangerfield was listed 36th in a list of the top 50 funniest people compiled by Entertainment Weekly.
Dangerfield has been equally successful as a recording artist. His debut album, No Respect, received a Grammy for "best comedy album" in 1980, as did his second album, Rappin' Rodney, in 1983. He appeared as himself in Billy Joel's "Tell Her About It" music video.
Born in Babylon, New York, Dangerfield began writing jokes at the age of 15. Performing at amateur night competitions from the age of 17, he became a singing waiter and comic two years later. Although he performed on the East coast comedy circuit for a decade, he grew increasingly frustrated by his inability to earn money as an entertainer. Leaving show business in the '40s, Dangerfield worked a variety of odd jobs including a stint as an aluminum siding salesman.
The turning point in Dangerfield's career came, shortly after his 40th birthday, when he returned to performing; working in his office during the day and performing at New York clubs at night.
Opening his own nightclub, Dangerfield's, on New York's First Avenue, Dangerfield hosted an HBO comedy show from the club. Among the many comedians that the show introduced to American viewers were Tim Allen, Roseanne Barr, Jim Carrey, Jeff Foxworthy, Sam Kinison, Jerry Seinfeld and Rita Rudner. Dangerfield also became a regular performer on television, appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show 16 times and Johnny Carson's Tonight Show, an unprecedented 70 times.
Although he became the first entertainer to have a website in February 1995, the event marked the apex of his career. Admitting to a lifelong bout with depression in 1997, he suffered a mild heart attack, following a six-night stint at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, and underwent double bypass heart surgery. While his health slowed him down, Dangerfield remains as durable as ever. He starred in The 4th Tenor, a slightly autobiographical film that premiered in November 2002.
Dangerfield's trademark white shirt and red tie can be seen at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. ~ Craig Harris